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By Jarryd Westerdale

Digital Journalist

Mace positions and a president: What to expect from the first sitting of parliament on Friday

The Seventh Parliament will mark the first time South Africa's President is confirmed by a House not sitting in its traditional chamber

Barring any last-minute drama, the first steps toward South Africa’s seventh administration will be taken on Friday, June 14.

The first sitting of the National Assembly commences at 10am and will feature the swearing in of parliamentary members and the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and President.

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First sittings vary in length and with this year’s unprecedented composition of parties, it is likely to be an all-day affair.

In 2019, the Speaker position came down to an extended vote, prolonging proceedings that eventually concluded at 5:30pm

Pomp and ceremony in Cape Town

400 members from 18 political parties will convene at Cape Town International Convention Centre to commence the work assigned to them by the results of 29 May’s national elections.

Proceedings begin with the Sergeant-at-Arms guiding Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to the Speaker’s seat.

A moment of reflection will follow the national anthem before Zondo announces the presiding powers granted to him by the Constitution.

Before the dignitaries enter the house, the ceremonial mace will be stationed upright at the head of the National Assembly podium.

The swearing in of members

Incoming parliamentary members will then swear their unwavering commitment to the Republic and Constitution before taking the oath in any of the nation’s official languages.

Members will approach the Chief Justice in groups of 10, each reciting the oath aloud until all 400 members have taken the oath.

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In looking to have this sitting postponed, Jacob Zuma and the MK Party are citing Section 46 of the Constitution, which states parliament must constitute at least 350 members.

The party filed an urgent application to approach the Constitutional Court, but the application was denied on Wednesday, 12 June.

Electing the Speaker of the National Assembly

The first major position to be put to vote is Speaker of the National Assembly. Considering the broader makeup of this first sitting, the post is likely to be contested.

After two or more members from the newly sworn-in body are seconded and the nomination forms are complete, a secret ballot vote will be held.

Again, the now MP’s will cast their ballot in Zondo’s presence and the ballots are counted under the Chief Justice’s watchful eye.

An MP must be elected with a majority share of votes. In the event of there being three candidates and neither obtains 50%, the MP with the least votes is eliminated and the MPs vote again.

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If two candidates are tied after at least one elimination has occurred, the sitting adjourns and must reconvene within seven days.  

Should an MP emerge victorious, the mace is laid horizontal and the Seventh Parliament will have begun.

The Speaker will now be the authority in the House and will preside over the election of the Deputy Speaker, which follows the same procedure as the Speaker’s election.

Electing the Republic’s President

Should only one nomination be made and accepted for President, then they will be elected unopposed.

However, should an MP be nominated to stand against the first nominee, then the same process will follow as the day’s earlier votes.

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Once the President is announced in the House, they will no longer be an MP and must take their oath of office within five days on a date announced by the Speaker.

Previous first sittings have seen members and the new President make statements but this is more a concession than procedurally mandatory.

Following the President’s inauguration, there will be an official opening that will include the President’s first official address.

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